This article examines the global distribution of wealth within the capitalist world-economy over the longue durée. In stark contrast to the convergence of wealth predicted by modernization theory, the relatively stable bimodal (core-periphery) structure predicted by dependency theory, and the relatively stable trimodal (core-semiperiphery-periphery) structure, this article finds that the structure of the distribution of wealth in the world economy has transformed with each successive world hegemonic cycle. By adopting a longue durée perspective and a new statistical approach, I develop Arrighi and Drangel's (1986) method of conceptualizing, operationalizing, and measuring the global distribution of wealth within the capitalist world-economy. Through an examination of the period from 1500 to 2008, this article shows that the global distribution of wealth within the capitalist world-economy has transformed from a unimodal distribution during the period of Dutch hegemony to a bimodal distribution during the period of British hegemony, then to a trimodal distribution during the period of US hegemony, and now to a quadrimodal distribution in the early twenty-first century. While the global wealth hierarchy remained stable during periods of world hegemonies, it was transformed during periods of systemic crisis and hegemonic transition, thereby creating new forms of hierarchies.

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